Weekly Discussion: Breaks

So this is the last weekly discussion for a while. They’re taking a rest and next week a brand new feature will make its debut, one I’m fairly excited about. However, for now let’s talk about breaks in gaming. Not limit breaks, because that’d be just odd and also lazy word association. Instead, lets take a look at series that probably need to take a bit of a break at this point.

Whilst it can be annoying when your favourite franchise takes a break before bringing you the next game, it’s often just what the series needs. Take the new SSX that we’re starting to see footage of in the new developer diaries. It looks absolutely fantastic, but I think the reason that there’s so much excitement surrounding it is that EA let the series have a rest for a while. If they’d just pumped out another one on schedule there likely would have been little buzz, and they wouldn’t have had a chance to get the series back to the point where it feels special.

[drop]So what do I think needs to take some time off? Well Halo for one. I absolutely adore Halo but we’ve had a new game for the last three years, and now there’s rumours of an HD remake of the original Halo coming this year as 343 Industries first entry into the franchise. However, I’d honestly like to see it take three or four years off and come back feeling fresh and exciting.

Unfortunately we’re not likely to see that given how many copies Halo is still capable of selling. If a game is still selling by the bucket load then why rest it? I think many of us would like to see Call of Duty (CoD) or FIFA take a break to fully reinvent themselves. Take some time off, try some new things, rebuild the engine and come back bigger and better than ever. However, those are titles that still sell millions of copies on release, so why bother?

Well, it’s probably worth bothering, since they’re not going to continue to sell like hotcakes for forever. Take CoD for example. Yes, it’s hugely dominant right now. In fact it’s dominant in a way that I don’t think any game has ever been before. That doesn’t mean the popularity is eternal though. It will still start to fade at some point, and by the time it does it may be too late to rescue it. With the way that Activision seem to be focusing their business more and more on their one superstar series, they need to reinvent it now. It’s possible that the creation of Sledgehammer Games was an attempt to do that without resting the series, but with them moving over to assist on this years release that’s looking less likely now.

So what would you like to see take a break? Do you think agree that CoD needs a break? What about other yearly franchises, like sports titles? How about Kit-Kats? Should they take a break? And yes, that was a terrible joke, but who can resist? More seriously, do you feel that it’s possible to reinvent and reinvigorate a series without taking a break at all?

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22 Comments

  1. killzone… rented 3 for 5 nights, took it back after 1 night. dull story, vile characters, buggy mechanics with poor pacing and graphically uninspired.

    build killzone 4 for next gen, don’t show it off until release week and get decent writers in

    • Totally disagree, love Killzone 3, the campaign was great fun. Once I complete Mass Effect 2 I plan to get right into the online side of Killzone 3.

      Killzone 4 will be epic….

    • Wow! I must admit that the first play through of the campaign felt a little light on story but, I’ve since played it through a 2nd and currently tinkering with a 3rd go. There are times when I look at the cut scenes or even the gameplay and just think ‘Wow!’. The game is an absolute masterpiece from story to sound to graphics and gameplay. I’m in love with the KZ3 campaign!

      • Cracking game Killzone 3. A must for any PS3 owner!

  2. Personally I think breaks in the gaming industry are a hard thing to do. If a series does take a break it’s usually percieved as running out of steam, occasionally series enter breaks and never come out again *Cough*Shenmue*Cough*. But then there are games that saturate the market, or could use the down time such as Tomb Raider in order to figure out where it is going. So… yeah, breaks are good and bad. I guess, like everything it depends on the rationale behind it.

  3. Tony hawk is having a break again like apparantly theres no game this year so hopefully it can return to its roots and abandon that stupid skateboard thing.

    Skate is ok but it isn’t the same fun I experienced with THUG 2, the gameplay is frusrating sometimes, the framerate is poor and the character design is atrodious. As a Sim its ok but isn’t good enough compared to a more arcade game.

    So If they’re planning Skate 4 then that needs two years of development than one. Its really damaging the quality by going for yearly releases that it can be really sad to witness.

    • Skate needed a brake. They didn’t seem to work out fixing bugs was important and as for tony hawk i think in a year or two they’ll get to come back strong with the arcade feel. It has beena few years already after all

  4. I think CoD did reinvigorate without taking a break. CoD 4 was a new beginning for the second-rate WWII FPS that CoD had become.

    Medal of Honor went the other way and had a bit of a break before its big reboot. I thought that was a really good game but it had a hard time winning over critics and it was always on the back foot in trying to compete with the unbelievable sales records of CoD.

    Now EA are trying to climb that mountain again with Battlefield and there’s an outside chance they’ll do it too. That franchise hasn’t taken a break or had a particularly noticeable reboot/reinvigoration but it has made incremental branches and multiple iterations to, in effect, spread bet on the audience.

    StarCraft’s long hiatus was a worry but it came back strong. Guitar Hero (and the like) recently got shelved and it will be interesting to see what those are like when they return in a couple of years because there’s not a lot of room for innovation in that genre.

    So, I guess it depends on how it’s handled.

    • it’ll be interesting to see how diablo does as well. Its taken a long brake

    • Good points raised here, I remember seeing the first trailer for Modern Warfare and being completely sold.

      I had never really been into the FIRE IN THE HOLE, BANG, DEBRIS -but MW got me into them a little.

    • Coincidental timing with Acti having just said that GH is “on hiatus” and not dead.

      Harmonix got the pacing of the Rock Band releases about right, while Acti were just trying to milk their cash cow as fast as they could and essentially made us all lactose intolerant in the process.

  5. You know what with some games i’m sick of brakes
    WHERE’S HALF LIFE?
    WHERE’S JAK AND DAXTER :'(

    • I was going to comment that.. But also Downhill Domination. I loved that on ps2..

    • This generation needs a J&D game, I wish Naughty Dog would do one after Uncharted3, maybe leaving extra time to breathe before 4 lands

  6. If a game is relevant, treated with care and has a strong story, it can grow and grow.

    Metal Gear Solid is testament to this as the story and gameplay is so rich and amazing.

    On the otherhand if the wrong people [accountants] get their way, things can just be ruined [Tony Hawk I am looking at you].

    Its a real difficult one really. Good topic.

  7. Broadly I’d suggest that it’s not that some franchises should be put on a break as much as it is that the recent trend to push out annual titles for non-sports franchises is a bit much.

    In general I prefer to always have two or three years between ‘sequels’ (for want of a better word) to give the developer time to come up with new ideas and incorporate feedback on the last title. (Though I wish fewer of them would spend some of that time shoe-horning in an unnecessary multi-player mode.)

    Even sports games could do that and have annual/seasonal DLC to bring player lists and team kits up to date.

    I can see why most publishers can’t get away with what Valve and Kojima do though. In an age where the public has an attention span roughly one third the length of a music video, you’ve got to keep pushing your franchise out there to retain mind-share.

    And as battle-lines tend to get drawn between competing franchises (e.g., MoH vs. CoD and FIFA vs. PES) so can see why a publisher would want to be able to quickly (within 12 months) react to their competitors innovations.

    A world were there was some kind of agreement that led to say CoD and FIFA coming out in even numbered years while MoH and PES came out in odd numbered ones would be interesting.

    As I alluded to in my reply to CB above, a clear example of one developer getting it right and another getting it wrong is Rock Band vs. Guitar (or whatever) Hero.

    Rock Band brought something new and considered to the table with every release. The Hero games (which I broadly enjoyed through World Tour) did little more than change set list and throw in the odd new feature in an attempt to differentiate themselves as the interval between titles became shorter and shorter.

    As GH is now officially “on hiatus” it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like when (if) it makes its return.

    (Sorry, that was longer than intended!)

  8. In terms of the videogames industry, a break in the series is more of a tactical decision than anything. You have to carefully consider how well the game sold(or the the latest game of a franchise), what the critical reaction to it was like, what projects are coming up, how well does the consumer base know of the brand and how the competition are shaping up. To put in simple terms, it’s a lot of work to plan a break for a game.

  9. Taking brakes are good for franchises that plan on sticking out the long run. The problem is knowing how to pace the releases and when a longer brake is needed.

    The pacing should be different according to what type of game it is, retail games should stick to a two-three years inbetween in most cases. This allows enough dev-time to come up with a good sequel, and keep the audience in suspence. Some games can put further space inbetween titles, but only if the franchise has many devoted fans to certain a successfull return, so this counts mainly for big high-budget franchises placed firmly and safely in the industry. Smaller titles, like PSN/Xbox-Arcade games, can take short brakes of approx 1 year and get away with it much easier than titles like CoD.

    Personally I think Duke Nukem needs to take a nice long break…………….

  10. Personally, I wish yearly releases shouldn’t happen! Looking at COD really, MW was & is a great game but mw2 just didn’t really cut it, then with black ops, oh dear! Bug ridden & hacked, if only they didn’t rush these out & ensure they’d made the games as tight as possible things might improve?
    As for KZ3, loving it and GT5 too. Those had fairly large gaps between releases and have sold well, especially as they are exclusive titles.

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